Julian Huppert MP writes… Have your say – Coalition plans to regulate CCTV

The Home Office yesterday announced plans for the regulation of CCTV as part of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

This is fantastic news. The regulation of CCTV and the protection of civil liberties were key to our manifesto and prominent in the coalition agreement.

Britain is home to as many as 4.2 million CCTV cameras – up to 20% of cameras globally – yet under Labour there was virtually no control over who has access to state surveillance. Our reforms mean we can control who has access to cameras, and how the footage is used.

Regulation will be crucial in creating a healthy balance between protecting civil freedoms and preventing crime. Today’s announcement means that, at long last, there will be legislation in place to protect the public from reckless or excessive use of CCTV by the police and other organisations.

A consultation on the CCTV regulations has been launched and will close on 21st March.

I’d encourage everyone who has an interest in this area to contribute to the consultation. Having as many views heard as possible will make it easier for the Government to get this important draft regulation code right.

This is Liberal Democrats delivering Liberal Democrat policy in Government.

* Julian Huppert is Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge.

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7 Comments

  • Patrick Smith 8th Feb '13 - 5:09pm

    It is an excellent initiative by Julian Huppert to ask the `Coalition Government’ to make the distinction and take evidence as to the balance between civil liberties and catching criminals red-handed, by use of the 4.2 Million CCTV locations .I suggest that in London Boroughs where CCTV is so vital to aid policing, especially at night, to protect women and apprehend burglars, that views be sought from Councillors, as to how to achieve best practice in deployment of CCTV cameras, in public places.It is also important to find out if CCTV is being deployed effectively in School neighbourhoods and how they are used in Hospital waiting areas.

  • Stuart Mitchell 8th Feb '13 - 6:53pm

    Julian, why are you still quoting that figure of 4.2 million cameras when it has been pretty well established now that the true figure is probably less than half that? See for instance :-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12641568

    The figure of 4.2 million cameras derives entirely from a single working paper published by two academics in 2002. They arived at this figure by doing a perfunctory survey of two busy south London shopping streets and then extrapolating that out across the entire United Kingdom. It’s a risible guesstimate.

    Back in March 2011, DCC Graeme Gerrard, ACPO’s “lead on CCTV”, said somewhat optimistically :-

    “until recently, even senior politicians have used the 4.2 million estimate as if it were incontrovertible fact.”

    Two years later and I’m afraid senior politicians are STILL trotting this factoid out.

  • Stuart Mitchell 8th Feb '13 - 7:10pm

    Julian Huppert: “Our reforms mean we can control who has access to cameras, and how the footage is used.”

    Not according to the draft code, which states feebly that “the [Surveillance Camera] Commissioner has no enforcement or inspection powers” – his functions being merely to “encourage”, “review” and “provide advice”. Elsewhere the document makes clear that “A failure on the part of any person to act in accordance with any provision of this code does not of itself make that person liable to criminal or civil proceedings”.

    So what exactly will you be “controlling”, and how? Does this code have any teeth at all, or is it nothing more than a best practise manual?

  • David Grantham 8th Feb '13 - 10:25pm

    “yet under Labour there was virtually no control over who has access to state surveillance”

    Doesn’t the Data Protection Act have quite a bit to say about it?

  • Suzanne Fletcher 9th Feb '13 - 12:24pm

    I am so pleased that this crucial balance between civil liberties and crime reduction is taking place. I have always been so wary of the enthusiasm to put them up everywhere, and whilst I know they are not a panacea for keeping one safe, I do prefer a car park at night with them in. I still want it regulating who can see the footage of them though. Opponents of my view say that I have nothing to worry about if not doing anything wrong, but it is MY business if I have a secret liasion there or whatever (not I hastily add, that I do anything at all that anyone watching would not find incredibly boring!).

  • Stuart Mitchell 9th Feb '13 - 4:15pm

    Suzanne: “, I do prefer a car park at night with them in. I still want it regulating who can see the footage of them though.”

    Well if it’s a private car park, this code has no effect whatsoever – though Julian doesn’t mention it, the code does not apply to privately run CCTV at all.

    And as I’ve already pointed out, the code confers no legal obligations on the police or government either.

    This code actually does virtually nothing, except create a no-doubt-highly-paid job for a commissioner with “no enforcement or inspection powers”. Like so many of the coalition’s civil liberties reforms, it’s just an exercise in window dressing.

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